Fourth Grade Insights

Since college, I have tutored in a variety of subjects and age groups.  I have been a college Calculus tutor, a high school English and ESL tutor, a tutor for the state English exam, and an organizational tutor.  This year, I have the pleasure of working with a fourth grade student in English and writing. 

This is my first time working with his age; I wasn't sure what to expect.  Would he be able to sit and study during our time together?  And with my background in teaching middle and high school, I wondered: Would I be able to stand conversing with a nine year old for an hour a week?  As it turns out, much like his wonderful, smart, and articulate older sister, he is a great kid--smart and interesting.

One particular day, his homework assignment was to write an essay on three goals to become a better person.  We were working on the organization and execution of writing the paper he had already begun to outline.  Two of the three of the goals he came up with were: "don't be mean" and "be nice."  The combination struck me as somewhat odd, and even a bit of a cop out, so I asked for clarification.  When I asked him, wondering his thought process, "Is there really a difference between the two?" he immediately answered that of course there was.  His differentiation of the two went as follows:

"Be nice" included:
- smile
- be friendly and welcoming
- ask questions and listen


"Don't be mean" included:
- don't lie
- don't laugh at others
- control your anger

He expanded on each of these points and we discussed their implications.  His answers surprised and impressed me.  His insight, particularly at age nine, was pretty profound.  Perhaps there truly is a difference between being nice and not being mean.  One is actively engaging in positive behaviors to make others feel comfortable and loved, while the other is controlling yourself and your behaviors.  Either way, these two fourth grade goals require mindful attention of your thoughts, words, and actions. 

It got me thinking about if these were in practice each day within my life.  I value truth and honesty above most other attributes in myself and others, but sometimes simple things like being a good and active listener, depending on the subject, are a challenge.  As we work to make mindfulness happen more and more often in our lives, I felt this deserved a little contemplation.

Image Source: Ranch View Elementary School

Today's Challenge: Reflect on your daily actions and determine if you might work on these fourth grade goals.

In order to see all "March Mindfulness" posts, click on the "March Mindfulness" label at the conclusion of this post.

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